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THE ONLINE INVENTOR

(C) 1998 Market Launchers, Inc. -- January, 1999

http://www.marketlaunchers.com

Editor:  Paul Niemann    

E-mail: [email protected]

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In the last issue, I spoke of the benefits of sending your press release to the appropriate reporters and editors. Last week, I received a call from a writer whose name I did not recognize, but he said that someone had forwarded this newsletter on to him. When he mentioned his book, however, I recognized the title, because I see it plugged in a lot of different publications. This guy really gets the word out, and it barely costs him anything to receive so much advertising for his book. The name of the book? "How To Market a Product for Under $500." The author's name is Jeff Dobkin.

One of the articles in this issue is from his book, reprinted with permission. I checked out his web site, too, and it contains a ton of useful information on marketing. I think you'll find it quite helpful -- the URL is: www.dobkin.com Jeff practices what he preaches, too -- he has sent out hundreds, if not thousands, of press releases over the years, for his clients as well as for his own products (mainly his books). By the way, I owe a big "Thank You" to the subscriber who forwarded last month's newsletter on to him.

In this issue:

Article #1:    "The 15-Page Direct Marketing Action Plan" by Jeff Dobkin

Article #2:    "Seldom-mentioned Ways to Increase Your Chances of Licensing Your Product"

Article #3:    "Increase Your New Product Development Success While Decreasing your Costs"

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Article #1:    "The 15-Page Direct Marketing Action Plan" by Jeff Dobkin.

This article contains valuable advice whether you are marketing your product yourself, or are looking for a company to license your product.

If the thought of writing 15 pages of material doesn’t scare you, pick up your pen and complete a tremendous segment of your marketing.

Here are the pieces. The material you’ll write is a press release, a cover letter, and a short series (2 or 3) of selling letters to people who respond to your magazine write-ups. In addition, you’ll need an introductory letter to better accounts, plus a slightly longer series of letters to send to them over time. This is how all the pieces fit together:

The worst mistake you can make with a high quality lead is to send a letter and a brochure, call a week later, and when there is no immediate sale, file the lead - never to see it again until you go through the drawer years later to clean it out. Ugh. If your marketing programs sound like this, you’re missing some of the easy sales you can get from minimal, inexpensive (32) second and third efforts.

While I don’t encourage clients to further beat a dead horse, usually more than one piece of communication or advertising is necessary to convert a suspect into a prospect, into a sale that involves any substantial amount of money. The basis for this principle is what I call Multiple Exposure Marketing. Everyone has their own favorite number of exposures for this: five sales calls, seven ad strikes, three phone calls - I don’t care which number you chose as long as it’s more than one. It simply takes more than one contact to make a sizable sale. The larger sales really do go to the people making these additional efforts.

To separate real potential buyers from the universe of everyone who may have any possible interest in your product including your competitors, you need to get a list of qualified names. This is accomplished most commonly in two ways in the direct marketing arena: first by buying a list of all possible suspects, narrowed down as far as possible by creative list procurement, and whittled down further by database enhancements to the list. So call your list broker, and make him or her work for their money. Keep digging until you find the best list possible; a little extra work here will be well worth it in terms of increased response percentages.

The second way to get suspects is to subscribe to the trade journals sent to the industries where you are marketing. Then take out an ad in each of them, and place those who express an interest in your product or services on your house mailing list. With this method you’ll find you’ll need to invest about ten grand for what you hope will be a great bunch of leads. Right. OR - for most of my clients, it’s go to plan B. The 25 dollar plan.

Luckily, I happen to have a copy of Plan B in my file. Here’s plan B. (For the money conscious, and the rest of us mortals who drive old cars.) Go to the library, find the magazines that serve the industries you are marketing to in the SRDS Directory of Periodicals, or the new and nicely put together Burrelle’s Media Directory, or Oxbridge Communication’s Directory of Magazines. You can find your markets - and the magazines that serve them - in less than an evening with any of these fantastic marketing tools. These directories make finding the trade journals and consumer interest-specific magazines easier than ever.

Get the magazines (for free) by calling their advertising departments and requesting a media kit. The magazine people know when media kits go out, the money comes in and they send them promptly. While you’re on the phone with the magazine folks, ask if they print a directory or annual reference issue and ask for that, too. Usually the publishers sell their annual directory, but if you request it at this time under the umbrella of We may buy advertising space in this, it’s always sent for free. It’s a powerful industry resource to find the major players.

As they arrive, read through the magazines looking for competitor’s ads. If you see a competitor’s ad, call the magazine and find out how often your competitor runs it. This will tell you how well it’s working for them.

2. Assess the market fit of each magazine: assign each particular magazine a letter grade between A and F of the likeliness of having an ad work profitably in that publication for your product. Write this letter grade on the cover, along with the cost of a full page ad, and a 1/4 page ad. Finally, 3. note if there is a column or department devoted to new products or product briefs. This will appear as a spread of small product photos, each followed by a one or two paragraph write-up. This is the way press releases appear in print. Write the name of this column on the cover, too.

Now throw out the plethora of ads, rate cards, and other extraneous material the magazine folks sent you. Boy, they sure like to write, don’t they? Save the magazines in which you are considering placing an ad, and also the ones that may accept your press release. Just save the covers of the other magazines - so in 6 months when you can’t remember which magazines you reviewed and what they looked like, you’ll have a record of it. A thin record.

Read through the remaining magazines that are applicable to your markets. Write a one page press release, send to the ones that accept releases, along with a cover letter that mentions how you enjoy their magazine, and that you have included a release for their column entitled "xxxx" and specifically name the column. This alerts the editor you are serious about being in their industry, you read their magazine, and you did your homework by being familiar with their new product column. This increases your chances for a free press write-up by about 25%.

If you really want to increase the chance of having your release printed - by about 80% - call the editor and ask Are you the correct person I should send this release to? Make sure you have a quality one minute spiel about your product ready. When you send your press release, be sure to include a cover letter that lets them know it was nice speaking with them even if it wasn’t. This reminds them you are the one that called and spoke with them personally. This reminder is invaluable in ensuring your release will be published.

Send all your releases with personalized letters, and include clear crisp black and white product photos (5" x 7"). It will take about three months before the releases get printed and start to generate leads for you. You don’t get this time off. While you’re waiting for the magazines to publish your release, get busy with the next part.

Part Deux. Create a sales letter campaign you’ll send to people responding to your magazine press release. Make sure you write about the BENEFITS of your product and what’s in it for them. Include reasons to buy now. Offer something special to close the sale immediately. If possible include a business reply envelope they can enclose money in when they send an order. And an order form to increase the likelihood they understand they are to order now! Create a second sales letter and data sheet, mail two to three weeks later. If it’s a hot list or the initial response is very good, mail a third letter. As with all approaches, test this 2 and 3 part mailing for profitability.

Scour the magazines and directories for the names and addresses of better prospects. Make calls to large firms in your markets to find out the names of big purchasers at each firm. No need to talk to them just yet, this is merely an information gathering call and pretty easy to do. The rest of the writing comes to seduce your very best magazine prospects and your hand-picked prospect list of about 100 people. Write a series of sales letters - maybe 6 or 7 - and send them to these best of the best prospects every three to four weeks. This is a short campaign to win the hearts and minds of your newly acquired prospective customer base.

Create a winning direct mail campaign - with a hard hitting benefit-rich letter, data sheet (or brochure if you have one), BRE, and order form. The letter is the key to selling through the mail, make sure yours is benefit heavy, and asks for the order (the objective of the piece) several times and again in the PS.

Start out the series like every other sales letter, with an interest arousing short opening, then dive right into benefits, benefits, benefits. No need to be pushy here, you still have 5 or 6 more letters to go. Second letter: still casual and friendly, In my last letter to you on May 9th, I mentioned several benefits we offer over our competitors models. There are several additional benefits I’d like to highlight that will save you quite a bit of time and work. Now feel free to mention additional benefits.

Over the next 5 letters create a friendly dialog and rapport with your prospect. All letters are personalized and no prospect knows anyone else is receiving them but themselves. A letter is a powerful sales vehicle, and the most effective personal marketing tool you can buy for under a dollar. Each letter gets progressively harder selling. Ask for the order. Cajole. Plead. Be frank. Be sincere. But be friendly (and persistent), and the sales will come.

If you decide to call these people after this multiple exposure letter campaign, I guarantee recipients will all know who you are at the first mention of your name. If the letters are constructed to be friendly and persuasive they’ll all feel good about purchasing from your firm. Yes, from just a few letters. From just a few 32 letters.

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To purchase Jeff Dobkin's book, "How To Market a Product for Under $500," go to www.dobkin.com or call (800) 234-4332. The cost of the book is $29.95 plus $4 S&H. His 2nd book is called, "Uncommon Marketing Techniques" and it sells for $17.95 plus $4 S&H. Both of these books are available in finer bookstores nationwide, or directly from the publisher by calling the above number.

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Article #2:    "Seldom-mentioned ways of increasing your chances of licensing your product"

The following items will help you increase your chances of success with your invention, as long as you do them. The more you do, the better your chances of success. This is not meant to be a complete list, but is intended to serve as a good start.

*    Go to retail stores where your product and similar products are likely to be sold. Do your research -- determine how your product is better or different than what is currently out there. Figure out how you will have to position it in order to get the shelf space that you feel it deserves. Become an expert in your industry.

*    Search through "The Thomas Register" for listings of companies that make products similar to yours. These are potential licensing candidates for your product, as well as being potential manufacturers for your product if you decide to have it made and sold yourself, rather than licensing it. Become an expert in your industry.

*    Learn more about your industry by reading the trade journals in your industry. You should be able to list the main trade journals that cover your industry. The trade journals will tell you who the big players are in your industry, and will give you a better idea of what these companies look for in new products, how to speak their language, and so on. Article # 1 above lists several excellent sources of trade pubs. Become an expert in your industry.

*    Contact the companies in your industry who you think would make good licensees. Decide which companies you want to go after, then set a goal to contact a certain number of them each week. Stick to it and remember to focus your efforts on those things that you can control, such as the number of contacts you make each week. The effort must be there in order to get the results that you want. Become an expert in your industry.

*    Send out press releases to the main trade journals in your industry. Information on how to do this, including an effective method of following up, can be found in Article # 1 above. Become an expert in your industry.

*    Attend trade shows in your industry. Meet key representatives from some of the companies who you'll be pitching your invention to. It's much easier to pitch a product to someone who you've met in person than it is to a complete stranger over the phone. A list of trade shows can be found at the Trade Show News Network: www.tsnn.com or at Trade Show Central: www.tscentral.com Become an expert in your industry.

*    Scour the Internet for information on companies in your industry. If you aren't too familiar with the Internet, then now is a good time to learn. You're already ahead of the game on this one, as approximately 75% of Americans are NOT online. There's a list of good Internet sites in my October newsletter; this can be found at: www.marketlaunchers.com/archives.html Become an expert in your industry.

*    Place ads in sources that are read by potential licensees. Your potential licensees read your industry's trade journals; they also look for new products in places like: The U.S. Patent Office, the Invention Mart section of Inventors Digest, our own Invention Database at www.marketlaunchers.com, inventor organizations across the country and the Internet. They also receive ideas for new products from the sales reps and distributors who sell their products, so it's a good idea to talk to these people as well. They can give you a good idea of what the manufacturers are looking for, and possibly even put you in touch with the right people at some of those companies. Where do you meet sales reps and distributors? Contact the retail stores in your industry and ask them for the names and phone numbers of their reps, and attend trade shows in order to meet them. Some trade shows also offer a directory of attendees. Become an expert in your industry.

*    You can even go so far as to build your own web site. This may or may not be a good idea, depending on your product and the extent of your marketing efforts. If you do decide to build your own site, though, you should be prepared to promote it heavily. The old adage of "Build it and they will come" does not apply to web sites. Promoting it on the Internet does not have to cost a lot of money; however, the minimum cost of having your own web site is approximately $335/year if it's a business web site, plus the time that it takes to create it and promote it. There are web hosting companies that will give you a free personal web site, but some (if not all) of them will shut it down if they catch you selling a product on the site. Plus, you do not receive your own domain name with a personal site -- you have to use one of theirs, such as [email protected] If you want to learn more about establishing your own web site, whether it be a business or a personal site, feel free to call me. I'll explain what I've learned from building my own site. Become an expert in your industry.

*    Read books on the subject of licensing. Two excellent ones are "How to License your Million Dollar Idea" by Harvey Reese and "Marketing Your Invention" by Tom Mosley. Another must-read is Inventors' Digest, and it is available by calling (800) 838-8808 or by visiting www.inventorsdigest.com. SUCCESS is another excellent magazine for entrepreneurs/inventors; call (800) 234-7324 to subscribe or visit www.successmagazine.com. Become an expert in your industry.

*    Network with others who have gone before you. Get involved with your local inventor group. There is probably one in your area, and they have meetings once a month. Why make all the mistakes on your own when you can learn from others instead? Become an expert in your industry.

You've no doubt noticed a theme here. So how do you become an expert in your industry? One way is to focus your efforts on as many of the above as possible. Nobody ever said that inventing, and marketing your invention, is easy. Stick with it, and focus on what you can control -- the amount of effort that you put into it.

Don't make the mistake of relying solely on others to help you license your product. Remember, one reason why a lot of inventions never make it to the marketplace is because the inventor fails to put the necessary efforts into marketing it. The world will NOT beat a path to your door to buy your better mousetrap. You must instead show the world that you have a better mousetrap. Even the best products must be exposed to the right people before they beat a path to your doorstep.

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Article #3:    "Increase Your New Product Development Success While Decreasing your Costs"

You may have seen this article before; it was on my web site for a while. However, it's worth including it here as well; you can print it out and use it when you pitch a potential licensee on looking at your product.

Increase Your New Product Development Success While Decreasing Your Costs

By Paul Niemann

"Everything that can be invented, has already been invented."

This quote came from the director of the U.S. Patent Office in 1899. Sounds pretty outrageous that he could actually consider shutting down the U.S. Patent Office, doesn't it?

Yet that's how some company owners and executives seem to respond when inventors call them with new products. Some have shut down their own patent offices, so to speak, by relying exclusively on their own people to generate new products. They miss out on some of the best new products out there, products which are available to them as well as their competitors.

To fully appreciate the potential in using outside inventors (product developers), it helps if you consider some of the products that they've created, and then sold or licensed to existing companies. To list a few: Black & Decker's Workmate, Monopoly, the Dolby Stereo system, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and those windshield scrapers that we see every winter - the one with the mitten attached. And the inventors aren't the only ones who profit from this type of arrangement.

The idea of using outside sources in developing new products shouldn't seem all that foreign to you. After all, you probably outsource some of your other services, perhaps to an outside accountant, lawyer or advertising agency. Using outside product developers improves your chances of competing successfully with the larger companies, without having to support a large Research & Development staff on your payroll.

The challenge for you then becomes: "How do we locate quality new products when they aren't even widely known yet - and how do we locate them before our competitors do?"

One solution is to use the same method that major league sports teams have been using for years in discovering top prospects: You act like a scout and go look for them. If you've never looked outside of your company for new products before, then here are three excellent places to begin with:

*    Inventor organizations across the United States. There are over 110 of these groups, and many of the members are waiting for an opportunity to sell or license one or more of their products to an established company. Most of them have monthly meetings. A list of them can be found at www.inventorsdigest.com/connect/orgs.html

*    The patent files of the U.S. Patent Office, on file at the 81 patent depository libraries across the country. These can also be seen at: www.patents.ibm.com The patent files contain over five million patents, and more than half of them belong to individual inventors. Companies can contact these individual inventors (called patentees) to determine if they want to sell or license their products.

*    The Internet, which contains an ever-increasing amount of information on new products from individual inventors. There's too much information on the Internet to even begin mentioning it here.

When you use these outside sources (and there are others), several things happen. First, the time that it takes to go from concept-to-market becomes much shorter, since you won't have to start from scratch with each new-product concept. Each product will already be completed or near completion. Second, working with outside inventors means that you don't have to pay for all of the development costs, since inventors generally must finance their own products until they are completed.

Finally, looking outside of your company for new products enables you to tap into a virtually unlimited pool of technology. Why limit yourself to ideas conceived by your own people, when there is a never-ending supply of new products from which to choose?

Paul Niemann is a Product Scout and a former marketing instructor at Fontbonne College. He helps companies locate new products to license and sell. His company, Market Launchers, can be reached at www.marketlaunchers.com or (217) 224-7735.

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In gambling, it is often said that you shouldn't bet more than you can afford to lose. In inventing, don't spend more than you can afford to lose because, after all, inventing is a gamble. There's no reason to ever go broke while inventing.

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Copyright 1999
Market Launchers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved

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Click here to read the December 1998 issue.